As the new PGA Tour season has just got into full flow this week at the CJ Cup, we asked MerseySport Live’s golf experts a few intriguing questions about the upcoming campaign. Both Paul and Tom are big golf fans, and avid players themselves. Have a read as to what they think the upcoming PGA Tour season has in store.

Who is your one to watch this coming season?

Paul: My one to watch is young American prodigy, Xander Schauffele. Over the past couple of seasons, he has been knocking on the door in major championships, with a big win surely only around the corner. He won Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour in 2017, as well as finishing in the top three of both the Masters and US Open last year. The 25-year-old has broken into the world top 10 and is surely not far away from getting that first major championship win.

Tom: My one to watch is Chilean, Joaquin Niemann. At just 20 years old Niemann has already won this year on the PGA Tour to go along with his six other wins as an amateur. Before turning professional, Niemann was the number one ranked golfer in the World Amateur Golf Ranking for 44 weeks. He made 21 of 28 cuts last year in his breakout season and I expect him to continue his wonderful into the 2019-20 season by winning another PGA Tour event and finishing top 10 in one of the years four majors.

Who will be the best newcomer to the PGA tour?

Paul: Viktor Hovland. After turning professional three-quarters of the way through last season, the Norwegian prodigy has so much potential at such a young age. Whilst still an amateur, Hovland won the Silver Medal at last seasons US Open at Pebble Beach, putting on an impressive display and easily holding his own with all of the world’s best golfers. Only last week, Hovland broke a long standing record of the most consecutive rounds in the 60’s. The 22-year-old is one of golf’s hottest prospects and I am certain he will make a long lasting impression on the professional ranks.

Tom: Paul’s choice of Viktor Hovland is a stellar one, but I am going to put forward Matthew Wolff. Teammates at Oklahoma State University both players contributed to their school’s victory in the 2018 NCAA Division 1 Championship. Since joining the PGA Tour Wolff has already won an event beating fellow American, Bryson DeChambeau at the 3M Open in July. Wolff is already a superstar signing multimillion deals with both Nike and Club Manufacturer TaylorMade, but it is his unorthodox swing which has got the golf fans talking.

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How will Rory McIlroy fare this season?

Paul: This is an interesting one for me. Although he won the FedEx Cup last season, I felt his year was still a disappointment. Not making the cut at The Open at Royal Portrush, in his home country, was a massive downer on what other than that was an impressive season. He did finish top ten in two of this year’s majors, but I was still bitterly disappointed with his season as a whole, despite it being the best season of his career in terms of trophies and stats. The main question is will he ever win The Masters? I think it will be another year for McIlroy without a major win, which begs the question, when will his major drought end?

Tom: After having his best statistical season on the PGA Tour, winning three events and winning the PGA Tour player of the year I still think Rory McIlroy can be even better this season. The only thing missing from his career best year was a major title, in which he finished in the Top 10 for 2 of the 4 majors. As regards to this year, I expect McIlroy to be in contention on Sunday at The Masters, a tournament that he wants to win so dearly. I also expect the Northern Irishman to win 3 PGA Tour events, compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, whether it be for Ireland or Great Britain… who knows. Lastly, Rory will de-thrown Brooks Koepka and get back to the World Number 1 ranking.

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How will Brooks Koepka fare this season?

Paul: Unlike McIlroy, world number one Koepka had another fantastic season. Winning the US PGA Championship and overtaking Dustin Johnson as the world’s best player is an impressive season in anyone’s books. I think the American will win his fifth major this year, overtaking McIlroy who I think will still have four come the end of the season. Koepka has played down his ‘rivalry’ with Northern Irishman McIlroy, saying that it cannot be deemed a rivalry as he hasn’t won any major titles since Koepka burst onto the PGA Tour five years ago.

Tom: Brooks Koepka’s game is seemingly never out of shape and looks to be in with a chance of winning every professional tournament he plays in. For the coming season I expect Koepka’s muscle mass to increase, as he is always in the gym, according to his Instagram. I think most golf fans would expect a major victory which has become routine over the past two seasons and lastly, I believe Koepka will be Top 10 in driving distance.

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What is your prediction for the shock of the season?

Paul: This was a very tricky one for me to decide on. I think that Phil Mickelson will get back in the major wins column, if you classify that as a shock. Mickelson has shown glimpses of his game getting back to its brilliant best recently, and I think he will piece all the parts of his game together and win a major this season. Mickelson has struggled massively over the past two seasons, including some missed cuts and drubbings at the Ryder Cup. The 49-year-old has been focusing more on his diet, nutrition and lifestyle and seems to be in a good place ahead of the upcoming season.

Tom: For me, this is the toughest question. In 2016, we witnessed four maiden major Victories for Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker. Sadly, I believe nothing like this will ever happen again, simply because the top players are truly that good now. My shock of the season will come right at the end of the campaign and not in a Tour event but in the Ryder Cup. I think Padraig Harrington’s European team will beat the USA at Whistling Straits to retain the Ryder Cup and win for the first time on American soil since the ‘Miracle at Medinah’.

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